Instead of facing this battle head on, more and more tour operators are making an end-run around the big guys, shifting their focuses away from public tour sales in favor of finding new direct sales markets. Among the most lucrative areas of expansion — both on an event-by-event basis and in terms of a client’s lifetime value — are corporate events.
Corporate tours boast a number of benefits for today’s tour operators.
- Profit margins are generally much higher than their public tour counterparts. Not only can you charge a higher price-per-guest for custom corporate events, you’re not giving away up to 30% of your revenue to OTAs or other third-party sales platforms.
- Corporate events support repeat and referral business. Unlike public tours where your guests are generally one-time customers, corporate events allow you to establish long term client relationships making the lifetime value of each guest much higher.
- Custom corporate tours are easier and more fun to execute. Corporate events usually have a long planning runway which means that every aspect of the tour is buttoned up and ready to go days or weeks in advance. Planning custom events also means you get to break out of the repetitive (and maybe slightly stale) mechanics of public tours and spread your wings a little!
That isn’t to say there aren’t speed bumps and pitfalls along the way to building out the corporate event side of your business. In general, the biggest misstep we see tour operators make is treating their corporate events the same way they handle their public tours.
The best overall advice we have to avoid the mistakes below is to undergo a shift in mindset around corporate events. Running successful corporate tours requires you to create a different business model than the one you’re used to using with public tours. It’s as if you’re running two different companies in parallel, each with different target audiences, sales strategies, and booking and payment platforms.
Read on to learn how to sidestep some common mistakes and make the most out of your corporate events!
#8) Not following up to sell future events
Corporate groups offer an amazing opportunity for repeat and referral business. Reaching out to past corporate guests is among the easiest ways to increase corporate tour business. You have their contact information, they already understand your product and are aware of its value. Check in regularly with past corporate guests and ask them directly if they’re ready to do another event with their team, or see if they know anyone in other departments or companies who might enjoy your tours.
#7) Sending an unprofessional looking proposal
Any items you send to a client are a part of your company’s perceived value. The greater the perceived value, the more truly valuable your experience becomes.
A professional proposal is both a functional document and a way to promote confidence in your company. It allows you to spell out your services clearly and present pricing in a straightforward and uncomplicated manner. Using templates from services like Proposify or DealHub can actually help increase your business.
#6) Selling public tours as private events
Simply repackaging your public tours as private or corporate events can have a negative impact on both tour products, reducing their perceived value and preventing you from offering a tailored event your corporate guests will really find impressive. Instead, as you build out the corporate side of your business, use it as an opportunity to expand the kinds of tours you offer. This can mean adding new vendors and creating new routes that can be customized to meet the needs of corporate clients. Custom tours command higher price points, and your guests won’t feel like they’re getting a repurposed, warmed-over public tour.
#5) Not asking for referrals
Your previous corporate clients don’t just represent the possibility of great repeat business. They also work within networks of other corporate teams who are also on the lookout for amazing event options. Build out a strong follow-up email campaign after the completion of a corporate event and be sure to ask directly if your previous guests know of anyone else in their networks who would enjoy one of your custom tours.
#4) Not using email to promote your corporate experience offers
In addition to reaching out to past guests personally, your email list is an incredible tool for driving corporate bookings. Aim to put out a monthly email that highlights the value of your events, links to blog posts on your site, and encourages recipients to follow you on social media. You can also segment your lists and tailor your messaging more specifically. Finally, you can set up automations to go out to prior guests to help keep your company top of mind for future events.
#3) Forcing payments through your public tour reservation system
Reservation systems are fantastic for booking and processing payments for your public tours, but they simply aren’t designed to handle custom private events. Importantly, their credit card processing rates are usually higher than the average, and the rez-tech company itself usually also takes a cut of every transaction.
One of the many benefits of corporate events is the simplicity inherent in pricing and billing. Most often, organizers will book the entire event for one price and use one credit card to pay for the whole tour. Instead of going through the hassle of using your current reservation system, seek out a third-party credit card processor with low processing fees. Ideally, the platform you choose will also have seamless invoicing capabilities that will allow your clients to pay you directly from the invoice. Options like Quickbooks, Stripe, or Square offer competitive alternatives to your rez-tech.
#2) Not capturing the email address of each guest
You have the contact information of your main event planner, but what about the rest of the guests on your corporate event? These guests may work in different departments or at other companies, and they represent incredible potential as future clients or referral sources.
UpLevel clients use our Digital Guidebook tool to capture the email address of every attendee. This way, everybody gets added to your mailing list, not just the main event planner. For instance, Savannah Taste tours captured 3,000 new email addresses in just five months. If just 1% of those people turn into new clients, that’s 30 new corporate events plus the possibility of return and referral business.
#1) No page for corporate groups
Without a corporate groups landing page, you miss the chance to start a very profitable conversation with your target clients. With a page dedicated to corporate groups, you can speak directly to event organizers, address their concerns, and show them why booking a tour with you is the answer they’re looking for.
Additional mistakes graciously shared by our community
We thank them for their openness and to be vulnerable with everybody to help raise our entire community.
Amidst a battle with a corporate group after her guide said something off script, Renée ReBell of Gourmet Food & Wine Tours shared her need for a good contract.
Not responding to emails fast enough
Midgi Moore of Taste Alaska! believes she’s lost out on thousands of dollars by simply not responding to leads. They fall behind in priority and she just fails to respond in a timely manner.
Register now for the next Town Hall
If you couldn’t make our Town Hall, never fear: we’ll be back next month.
This year we will continue to explore new strategies to grow your corporate and private tour business.